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Bolognaise with hidden vegetables.

As a busy Mum finding the time (and motivation) to get an easy and healthy meal on the table for your family can seem daunting. So, let’s go back to basics. Bolognaise is a huge favourite among children, it was even my own favourite as a child. I have discovered that with a few tweaks and additions it’s easy to make it nutritious as well as delicious. This is a recipe I have fine tuned during my years in childcare. I now make for my own daughter once a week. Every child I have ever made it for (and there have been many) has devoured it. Yes that includes the picky ones! I love the feeling of knowing they’ve got tummies full from a healthy well balanced meal. 

The secret is to cook it long and low. The vegetables soften and seep their juices into the sauce, the tomatoes, carrots and peppers sweeten and the whole thing becomes rich and yummy. If you know you won’t have time when you get in from being out all day you can prepare it up to step five in the morning, then either put it in the slow cooker (if you have one) to blip away while you’re out, or have it ready on the hob to turn on when you get home. 

Tip: If you have a baby or a fussy eater in the family, you can blitz the bolognaise in a blender once it’s ready and cooled a bit, leaving a smooth silky sauce, and no opportunities to pick out those veggies! 

Go forth and cook!

This recipe makes enough to feed a family of four good eaters. For us it feeds two greedy adults and a toddler, plus a portion or two to freeze for those inevitable days that just get away from you. 

Tip: In an effort to reduce the amount of meat my family eats I sometimes make this bolognaise with Quorn mince instead of beef mince. I’m pretty sure my toddler doesn’t even notice the difference.

Ingredients.

  • 350g minced beef
  • 1 carrot, grated
  • 1 medium onion (or half a large one) finely diced
  • Half a red pepper, chopped into approx 1cm squares
  • Half a courgette, halved and sliced
  • 1 or 2 cloves of garlic, depending on how garlicky you like your food, finely chopped
  • 100ml red wine (rest of the bottle for the chef and don’t worry, the alcohol will cook out of the wine so that it’s child friendly) 
  • A 400ml can chopped tomatoes
  • 2 tbsp tomato puree 
  • 1 beef stock cube (for babies under 2, use reduced salt stock) dissolved in 150ml of boiling water
  • 1 tsp dried oregano

Method.

Tip: Prepare all of your ingredients first, then pulling it together is easy.

  1. Add a little olive oil to a frying pan and brown the mince of a high heat for a few minutes until brown, then set aside.
  2. In a medium to large saucepan add about a tablespoon of olive oil, the grated carrot, chopped onion and a pinch of salt. Cook on a medium heat for 10mins until they start to soften. 
  3. Add the tomato puree and garlic, stir and cook for 3 mins.
  4. Pour in the red wine and cook for 3-4 mins to reduce and cook off the alcohol.
  5. Stir in the beef, chopped tomatoes, stock, courgette and red pepper.
  6. Add the oregano and a couple of twists of black pepper, put a lid on, turn the heat down to low and cook for at least 1 hour, longer if it suits you.
  7. Take the lid off, turn the heat up to medium and cook for 20mins to half an hour longer, until the sauce is thickened and rich.
  8. Leave to sit and cool for 10mins, then serve. 

Serving suggestions.

This is a versatile bolognaise that can be served with rice, pasta or baked potatoes, in wraps with avocado and salsa, or layered in a baking dish with pasta sheets, white sauce and some cheese for a banging lasagna. 

I’d love to hear from you and see pictures of your creations. Please join me on Instagram or send me an email!

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